Press Release
August 10, 2011

After DoH budget hearing

Drilon: Today we heard the P42 billion budget of DoH. First of all, we wish to commend the Aquino administration for giving emphasis to our health sector. The increases in the budget for the current year and in 2012 for DoH is substantial and really we support such substantial increase in the budget. This is a 32% increase--from P31.8 billion in the current year to P42 billion... it's really an increase in the right direction. Having said that, there are certain issues which really disappoints the committee on finance. We were told that there are 287,000 nurses who are not employed in the nursing profession, meaning that these are nurses who end up in call centers, in doctors' clinics and some are just plainly unemployed. At first glance, there appears to be a mismatch between the college graduates produced by our educational system and the need of the industry. But upon a closer analysis, it would appear that there is almost a criminal neglect. The budget will show that the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund would carry a P1 billion allocation for unfilled positions in the DoH. Meaning that these positions which are vacant up to now will no longer be funded in the regular budget of the DoH but under a separate item called miscellaneous personnel benefits fund, where upon the filling up of these unfilled positions, then their budget is drawn from that portion of the GAA, not from the P42 billion. In effect, the budget of P43 billion including the P1 billion which will be released only once a vacant position is filled up. Why do I call it almost a criminal neglect? Because right now in all the government hospitals you will see a lack of staff. Kulang ang doctor, nurses at umiiyak ang mga director ng mga government hospitals dahil ang kanilang bed capacity is supposed to be 300 and therefore their staffing pattern is supposed to be 300, but in actuality there are 600 beds in their hospital and their staffing pattern is only for 300. Worse, the allowed staffing pattern is not even fully filled up. The problem, it turns out, is that the DBM will not allow filling up of administrative positions. On the other hand, there is a difference in classification between the DoH and DBM. The DoH considers a good number of positions as technical and not administrative, on the other hand, the same position is considered as administrative by the DBM. So what happens? DBM would not allow the filling up of these positions and yet we have 287,000 nurses who are not employed in the nursing profession and whose services are needed by these govt hospitals. That is why I am asking particularly the DBM to please for the sake of our people, we cannot continue with this kind of a setup. This is nothing but a bureaucratic foul up resulting in the deprivation of health services to our poorest sector. I would like to see this problem solved within the next 30-60 days. I will not report the Health budget to the Senate floor unless this issue is resolved, so that to put pressure on the bureaucracy. I call on Sec. Abad and Sec. Ona to sit down as soon as possible for the sake of our health sector. Otherwise our people will continue to feel frustrated. The bureaucracy, the DoH will feel frustrated. At the end of the day, it is our poorest sector of our society which will suffer.

We also were briefed that a major problem of our health sector is malnutrition. Looking at the data of children from 1 day-5 yrs old, there are about 12.8 million of those kids, about 2.6 million or 20% is underweight. About 28% is under height, that's 3.5 million kids. Another 425,000 would be obese. The malnutrition must be addressed and we are informed that a program is being undertaken, although this is 2008 data. We asked for an updating of this data and what are the programs of the Natl Nutrition Council to specifically address this problem. This has an impact on our future. Can you imagine? We do not want to be a nation of dwarfs with under height children. We do no want to be called a country of dwarfs. This is again rooted in our poverty because the statistics would indicate that there are 5.2 million Filipino families with monthly income of P3,460 or less. And there are 4 million Filipino families with monthly income of P6,073 per month. This indicates the level of poverty which now translates into the malnourished children. Again this is an area which must be addressed because this affects our future.

Finally on the universal coverage of PhilHealth, we are glad to report that for 2012, all the 5.2 million Filipinos which are considered the poorest of the poor, earning a monthly income of P3,460 or less will be covered now by PhilHealth with a P12-billion allocation. We will approve this program for enrolment so that at least we can cover the poorest of the poor number of families in our country. We have required a separate presentation by PhilHealth because we have received a lot of reports about the very, very slow pace by which the Philhealth would service the claims from hospitals. They have a reserve fund of about P90 billion which is way way above what is required by law. I think what is required by law at the present level should be only about P30 billion. All of these, the P1 billion fund for unfilled positions, the inability of PhilHealth to service on time the claims by hospitals, all of these would go into the public sector spending which is constricted by this inability to disburse and utilize public funds and that is why we are looking into this. Where is the fault? Is it in the DBM alone or is it in the implementing agencies, or in both? Whatever is the answer, the point is there is a very substantial constriction in govt expenditure which has resulted in a less than forecasted GDP of 4.9% for the whole year. This affects the underemployment rate in our country which has worsened in the past 6 months.

Q: May estimated number ba tayo ng unfilled positions?

The unfilled positions for the entire bureaucracy is 66,957, of which P23 billion of the budget is not being utilized, that is why you asked how many of this pertain to the DoH, the preliminary answer is 4,000 subject to further verification.

Q: Sa nakaraan saan napunta ang budget nila for the unfilled positions?

I do not know, I did not get that. In others it was the source of corruption in the AFP. In fairness I didn't get that from DoH. Because this was never released to them. It is in the current year appropriation, it is available and it was never released to DoH because their staffing pattern has been pending in the DBM for the last 5 years. That's their testimony. That is why there is so much of these unfilled positions. And yet the irony of ironies, is that you have hospitals which needs all of these positions--nurses, doctors and medical personnel.

Q: For 5 years, saan napunta yung pondo for that?

I do not know. It just reduced the projected deficit.

Q: Do you think it's possible na yung sitwasyon sa DoH is endemic and applies to the rest of the bureaucracy like DepEd for teachers, DPWH for engineers...

It is possible. We'll ask that question from every govt agency with substantial PS budget. In the DoH, AFP, DPWH, DSWD... these are the Top 5... Judiciary. We will ask this of every department.

Q: Yung P90.6 billion PhilHealth reserve fund, ano mangyayari dun?

This is used to pay claims. What we are saying is that there are more than enough reserves and therefore they should pay the claims faster. Number 2, we will increase the premium from P100 to P200 that is why there should be a wider benefit program not limited to where it is today. So with a P200 premium payment, that should result in more medical and hospitalization benefits for indigents. It is very critical for the flagship project of the DoH dubbed as "Kalusugang Pangkalahatan." The universal coverage becomes a critical component for the success of the program. And of course the hiring of personnel necessary for the health services to be rendered to our people.

Q: Ang naging agreement kanina ay 90 days ba for DBM and DoH to settle the staffing issue?

Well only lower ranking bureaucrat was here for the DBM but the agreement is that it must be executed. This is what is in the budget, this is what is in the law.

Q: Yung P2.5 billion para sa family health program, hindi na rin naka specify kung magkano yung para sa contraceptives?

The DoH assured Sen. Sotto that there was no increase in the budget insofar as this controversial activity is concerned.

Q: On downgrade: Would you identify specific sectors in PH that should be more cautious following the downgrade?

Depending on which sector you belong, it can be both a benefit and a disadvantage. If the dollar weakens and peso appreciates, the importer would be benefited. The exporter would have to tighten their belts because then the value of the export when converted to peso, would be less. The OFW families here would be on the losing side because if the exchange rate strengthens in favor of the peso, they would get less for the dollar. In response, it really depends on the sector that you belong.

Q: Laborers specifically, should they be more cautious? Yung employment ba would be affected?

The export oriented companies would have to be very wary, at least in the short term, when the demand for consumer goods in the US and probably in Europe would slacken because many businessmen have wait-and-see attitude. If the demand slackens, the electronics industry here for example would have to be cautious and in that sense it has an immediate effect. That's why I said depending on which sector you belong.

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